''American Idol'''s newest star -- We talk to Ferras, the ''Hollywood's Not America'' singer-songwriter about making it big on ''Idol'' without facing Simon Cowell
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LIONEL RICHIE, KATY PERRY, RYAN SEACREST, LUKE BRYAN

A singer-songwriter named Ferras (pronounced Fer-AHSS) just snagged American Idol‘s golden ticket — and he didn’t even have to face the judges. The 25-year-old unknown’s soaring anthem ”Hollywood’s Not America” was selected as the exit music for contestants who will be booted off during season 7’s Hollywood Week (which begins Feb. 12) — a lucky break that the Illinois native calls both ”amazing and totally nerve-racking.”

It doesn’t hurt that his debut album, Aliens and Rainbows, out April 1, was produced by hitmakers The Matrix (the force behind singles by Avril Lavigne, Liz Phair, and Jason Mraz) — or that he found a champion in, of all people, Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst. A fan of Ferras’ music, Durst helped hook him up with a contract at Capitol Records. The admiration of a hard-rocker is especially ironic given that Ferras is more soft pedal than nü-metal, since he writes his own songs primarily on the piano.

Despite the remarkable exposure Idol can provide, the show doesn’t guarantee longevity; Daniel Powter’s ”Bad Day” became a smash when it served as season 5’s see-ya-later send-off, but his follow-up singles fizzled. Nonetheless, Ferras considers this gig to be a better opportunity than spending a few months getting dressed-down by Simon, Paula, and Randy. ”The thought had crossed my mind,” Ferras says of auditioning. ”But I always wanted that Cinderella story of a record-label president signing me, and to make it happen on my own.” So far, it sounds like the beginning of a beautiful fairy tale. (For an exclusive performance of ”Hollywood’s Not America” on Idolatry, go to ew.com/ferras.)

Episode Recaps

LIONEL RICHIE, KATY PERRY, RYAN SEACREST, LUKE BRYAN
American Idol

Ryan Seacrest hosts as Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan guide aspiring singers on their way to superstardom.

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